APPROACHING at a distance, it looks like a women’s clinic but when one gets closer, it becomes clearer that it is a food outlet, Dusty Road Restaurant.

Sarah Liford

Sarah Liford

The Victoria Falls food outlet, popular with tourists, is owned by and employs women only in the resort town.

Dusty Road is a traditional Zimbabwean restaurant situated in the bustling heart of Chinotimba suburb, the biggest and oldest township in the resort town.

It is only two kilometres from the central business district and is also located adjacent to a 24-hour private clinic.

Not only has the restaurant become popular with locals, but with foreigners as well, swarming the food house to sample some sumptuous local cuisine.

“No one does one specific job here, as we have instilled the idea of learning how to run a restaurant business, go and start your own,” says Sarah Lilford, the restaurant owner and an established caterer.

“That’s why today you will see one lady cleaning, tomorrow she is a chef, the next day she is doing the books and then the next day she is the manager on duty.”

One needs to step inside the thriving eatery and experience the vibrancy of the community, as local vendors sell their wares while enticing smells waft from the charcoal fires and your eyes will be treated to bright and inventive creations recycled from the SADC region with a heavy dose of African humour and ingenuity.

Preparing traditional meals for clients

Preparing traditional meals for clients

Speaking to during a week in which the resort town hosted the 6th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (AFRSD), Lilford said the Dusty Road Restaurant also gives ladies a place to share, learn and start their own businesses in the long run.

“Among the group of ladies I employ are some who have never worked before and I am loving the challenge of teaching them new skills. All my ladies have a variety of jobs,” she said.

“All my ladies have a variety of jobs to do, I just don’t have cooks, cleaners or accountants. Everyone needs to learn skills involved in the restaurant.

“And by giving them these jobs, they have gained some incredible experience and I love the confidence that they have gained with foreign guests,” she said.

“I am just seeing them developing as people and I believe we have such a big responsibility in the home and I am creating this home in the township where they feel safe, secure and also discuss other issues that affect women generally in their day to day lives.”

Lilford added: “Most of the women live close by and walk to work. That also makes them close to their homes and families and will be able to quickly rush home after work or if there is any emergency.

Inside Dusty Road Restaurant

Inside Dusty Road Restaurant

“For any other issues, these women are directed to support groups that deal with issues such of domestic violence and public family planning clinics.”

In the restaurant, the food is cooked the Zimbabwean way on open fires and cast iron pots and ovens.

The Dusty Road restaurant style is cheerful, earthy, soulful and funky with a true purpose at its core and the welfare of women, female empowerment and the awareness of Zimbabwean culture is of huge importance to them.

Outside the restaurant, there is also a hive of activities with ever-smiling women vendors selling their wares to visitors.

By Robert Tapfumaney
Source & images: New Zimbabwe